The response of stream ecosystems to riparian buffer width and vegetative composition in exotic plantation forests
Thesis DisciplineEnvironmental Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
Riparian buffers along stream margins have been widely adopted as a management strategy to mitigate the adverse effects of plantation forestry on stream ecosystems. However, the efficacy of these riparian buffers can be jeopardised by variations in width, length, and vegetation which can range from native and exotic scrub (including bracken, gorse, broom and blackberry) to remnant beech forest. This thesis investigates the influence of riparian vegetation age and composition, on stream ecosystems within exotic pine plantations. Initially, a survey of 50 streams within pine forests of various ages and riparian composition was conducted at sites from mid-Canterbury to Hanmer Springs over the summer of 2004-2005. Additionally, terrestrial subsidies were compared between young pine, mature pine and indigenous forest streams to ascertain differences or similarities between vegetation types. A range of physico-chemical and biological characteristics were recorded, while vegetative age and composition with catchment, riparian buffer and reach scales were determined using GIS. Forestry activities were found to vary temporarily and tended to adversely impact upon streams where riparian buffers were narrow and lacked indigenous vegetation. Stream instability and sedimentation were consistently higher in catchments lacking indigenous riparian vegetation, and more markedly so in recently harvested catchments compared with more mature forests. Streams dominated by pine forests had finer substrates with higher water temperatures and levels of turbidity, while those dominated by indigenous forest had coarser substrates, higher flows and dissolved oxygen levels, and less in-stream debris. Benthic community composition was similar among sites, although taxonomic richness, EPT diversity, and invertebrate abundances were enhanced by indigenous riparian vegetation.